Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Answer me this, mesdames et messieurs

What do you do if you have just finished your first draft of a story, and it's really more than a first draft. You are now polishing and layering a bit more into it. But it's formed, with beginning, middle, end. Characters are all there doing their thing, action all the rest of it.

And you start reading a book by a fabulously well-known author and you realise


This reminds me of my book. And you keep reading, and every few chapters you go

I am somehow connected psychically to this person on the other side of the world.

Now, get this. It's about the mother-daughter relationship, not an uncommon theme, so that's not a problem.

BUT when she uses the word mauve relating to cosmetics, she has a mother that is mentally ill (mine is an aunt), she has a scene where the main character ponders on rabbit bones and looks at them lined up on a windowsill, along with rocks and stones, and a few other seemingly small things but which all add up to one humungous


and you have the same fucking stuff in your book, then what else can you think but


I have put the book down. I am a little over half way through. And I don't know what to do.

Because it is such a good book, and mine is trifling in comparison. I want to finish it, I am loving it, but then what happens with my book, I have toiled over it for more than 12 months, and which started as a seed a few years ago?

No matter that my mother loved it, and my sister.

No matter that my father sent through his response last night and said things like "I have finished reading your first novel. It's sure to be up for a Miles Franklin! I loved it."

Know that my dad is not an exclamation mark kind of guy. Know too that my dad does not use the word "love" lightly. He is not into hyperbole and I have never really felt that he's been big on the building up of a daughter's self-esteem. He's never taken the care to do all that, never thought to maybe, he is not a nurturer of a small girl's dreams. So when he says something like that, it's pretty enormous.

So, dear readers, what the hell do I do now?

I've organised for a professional manuscript assessment, need to send it off around mid-March.

I have to stay true to it, don't I? I shouldn't panic and go running around trying to change shit.

Well, I guess in a way it's validation, but she's done it so much better than me.



obtuse-a said...

Universal Laws of Coincidence strikes again.

I'm in a similar situation with my PhD thesis - where I found someone had not just done her PhD on the same topic and themes but had already published. It's very depressing.

You may need to rewrite some sections. They may end up even better.

オテモヤン said...


squib said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
squib said...

I don't think you should freak out. The coincidences you speak of don't sound exceptional to me (for example, I've recently written a poem about a woman who wears mauvish foundation) and if a couple of scenes are way too similar then tweak them a bit

eat my shorts said...

What would I do?

Why, I'd vomit. That's what I'd do. Promptly followed by a good, long panic.

Then I'd listen to Obtuse-a & Squib, and stop vomiting and panicking.

suze2000 said...

I think you can rewrite the scene with the rabbit bone, and there's a good chance no-one will notice the rest. Heh.

Good luck!

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I'm with the anonymous weirdo and include a lot more sex in your book.

Oh and what Squib said.

Another Outspoken Female said...

All of the above - and write the next novel FASTER :)

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Anonymous said...

Ah, This is awesome! Puts to bed
a few contradictions I've read

Pepsi said...

Give both books to someone else to read to see if they really sound as alike as you think they do or re-write it with zombies.

I've been away - miss me?

jo_blue said...

Fuckity fuck Melba, I got nothing, so I'm with Squib on this one. But try not to panic. Good luck.

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BookMoth said...

This is a really sticky sitch.

My guess (and it's obviously a very guess-y guess because I have not read either of the texts in question) is that things are not as bad as you think they are. Writers always exaggerate their (supposed) failures. You're too close to your MS to be objective.

Can you give the MS-assessor the offending, already-published book and ask for their opinion? It might be worth paying a little extra for the extra reading time.

Or you could give the book and MS to a few trusted readers and ask them to take notes and give you feedback. Don't give them too much background about the potential similarities, just let them draw their own conclusions...?

I dunno... I know it sounds like a bit of a platitude, but things always seem a bit less dire the next day. That's what my Nanna always said.

p.s. And obtuse-a is right - rewrites are often better than the original.

dakini kundalini underpants said...

Collective unconscious and all of that

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Esz said...

Wow whats with all the spammers!!

As for your book - I have read many books that were strikingly similar to each other - some genres just breed that similarity. Though I've found it's usually authors repeating themselves with only slightly different characters.

I think your similarities are not as bad as you think! I'm sure the assessor will put your fears to rest :-D
Though I can understand you freaking out cos i would do the same!

Melba said...

Thanks everyone. I have settled down a bit, finished HER book and really, apart from the rabbit bones the other stuff (mother-daughter = big theme, so many people write about it; dandruff on shoulders reference = common enough; sheep and a graveyard? at least my sheep aint IN a graveyard; murder = mine is a maybe, hers is seen, and whatever else I was freaking out about) they are different.

So I'm feeling better about that.

I'm getting my ms to assessor by March 15, we shall see.

We shall see.

And obtuse-a: I get what you say about rewriting. And sorry to hear about the PhD. Annoying.

Pepsi, I have missed you! Welcome back. I did note you disappeared at the time I told you which badly-dressed '80s person I was in that video, remember? Maybe your eyes melted or something and you had to have surgery.

Thanks again everyone. Your comments helped me get perspective.

But anonymous, I'm intrigued by you. Who are you and why do you say that?

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